Cheryl and Robert Prudham take a selfie while abroad on holiday in Menorca.
Cheryl and Robert Prudham pictured while abroad on holiday in Menorca Facebook

A woman dubbed the 'Queen of Benefits' has been spared jail for handling cash her former partner stole from car meters.

Cheryl Prudham admitted handling £2,241 of the £4,787 her ex-partner, Robert, pleaded guilty to misappropriating while working as money collector, a job he had secured by fraud.

The mother of 12, who appeared at Maidstone Crown Court by TV link to Warrington Crown Court in Cheshire, where she now resides, admitted using some of the money to pay off an instalment of expensive holiday in Menorca.

The woman, who had eight previous convictions for 10 offences, including shoplifting and intimidating a witness, was sentenced to four months imprisonment suspended for two years with a 35-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

The court heard Prudham and her then partner paid £7,671 for the 14-day holiday at the Victoria Playa resort in Santo Tomas on the Balearic island, before the couple and nine of Prudham's children set off from London Gatwick on 16 May 2014.

"This offence was in my judgement motivated by greed on your part," a judge told her, according to Kent Online.

"You used the money to pay for sums due on a holiday."

The 35-year-old was dubbed 'Queen of Benefits' after pocketing over £40,000 a year from government welfare handouts, which she then spent on expensive gifts for her children.

The court was also told that she had paid for the expensive holiday with regular deposits at Thomson's branch in Sittingbourne.

The prosecutor, Emma Shafton, added Prudham, whose last conviction dated back to 2004, initially claimed she had saved the money herself and was reluctant to hand her bank accounts over to investigators.

The court also heard Prudham's then partner had secured a job as money collector by stating to Red Eagle Recruitment Specialist that he was of good character and had no criminal convictions, despite having previously appeared in court 18 times for over 29 separate offences.

He then stole coins and notes from a number of station car parks across Kent, including Borough Green, Chatham, Hildenborough, Longfield, Maidstone East, Meopham, Rainham, Sevenoaks, Staplehurst, Orpington, and car parks at Fremlin Walk in Maidstone, and Darent Valley Hospital.

He was jailed for 14 months on Monday (8 January) for the offence after pleading guilty to stealing from Meteor Parking between 4 January 2012 and February 2014.

Philip Sinclair, for the defence, argued the mother was in an "abusive relationship" with her partner and that while she had six children with Robert, the couple were not "officially married" at the time of the offences.

Since committing the offence, Prudham's ex-partner, the court heard, has been convicted of harassing the 35-year-old, as well as shoplifting.

"It was an abusive relationship virtually from the start," he said. "She was unable to leave it. She made a number of complaints to the police, but various assaults were never pursued.

"When he brought home a lot of money, largely in coinage, she knew it was stolen. She panicked. She paid for the holiday herself. He contributed nothing towards it.

"It cost nearly £8,000. She had paid £6,000 at the time of the offence. She was able to take up employment working 12 hours a day as a carer. She has now lost that job.

"She was concerned about the stolen money in the house and didn't know what to do, and she foolishly paid off the balance for the holiday."